Wednesday, February 6, 2013

What runs on air but burns four times hotter than lava?

Agilent's 4100 Microwave Plasma - Atomic Emission Spectrometer, or MP-AES for short. This instrument essentially replaces our [very] old Atomic Absorption Spectrometer. Our new MP-AES is well-suited for detecting metal ions in water samples.  It first filters air into a stream of pure nitrogen and then blasts it with microwaves that transform the gas into a plasma of electrons and ions to produce something like a very hot flame. Into this plasma we send an aerosol from a water sample and the metal ions that were present in the water are excited electronically and decay to the ground state by emitting light of different wavelength. The different wavelengths indicate which metals are present in the water sample, and the intensity of the light indicates their concentration. The nitrogen generator is the white box on the floor that is fed by purified and dehydrated air (note the pipes and pressure gauges by the wall). Chemistry students will have the opportunity to use the MP-AES as early as their freshman year.

Please click here for a link to a short video presentation of the MP-AES that describes the basic ideas and engineering of the main instrument and the nitrogen generator.